Pebbles of Destiny

 

A David Blaine Story (Continuation of A Life Rekindled)

By Atonia Walpole

 

Down in the sounding foam of primal things I reach my hands and play with pebbles of destiny.

(Carl Sandburg – Who Am I)

 

Chapter 1

 

Christine sat curled up in a chair while Blaine explained his disappearance to his daughter. He’d done a good thing in telling her the truth, she thought. It was better not to lie and it was something she could understand. Lyssa’s only fear was that he would go away again to fight bad men.

“Never again.” He kissed the top of her head. “I am your daddy first before I am anything else.”

Lyssa played with his hand, feeling the calluses and touching the scars. “My Daddy is home.”

Shadows were advancing across the room. Christine noted the time. “Should I make dinner?”

“Fish is expecting us,” Blaine replied. Lyssa became heavier in his arms and he touched her nose and her cheeks. The excitement of a trip to the dentist and finding her father at home caught up with her. She’d gone to sleep.

Christine wiped tears from her eyes and unfolded from the chair. “I will make tea,” she whispered.

Blaine gently rocked his baby in his arms for a minute then laid her on the sofa, covering her with a knitted throw. He followed Christine into the kitchen and slipped his arms around her waist at the sink. “I think I am overwhelmed.” She turned in his arms and rubbed his wet eyes with her thumb.

“We are complete, now, David.”

“Yes, my hollowed out heart is filled again. I never expected to be here. Thank you, Christine, thank you for loving me enough to find me.” He kissed her slowly and thoroughly.

“Tea,” she said when she could speak.

“Coffee.”

“Coffee? All right.” She turned her head away and bit her lip.

“I had tea at Trevor’s. What is it, my darling?”

“I’m afraid.” She took a breath. “Afraid to be so happy. I might wake up and find it was all a dream.”

“It is not a dream.  This is real.” He took the kettle from her and plugged it in. “Was it hard for you to leave your home in France?”

“Ah, yes, of course it was but I had no choice. Sir Brennan was calling us all in for safety’s sake. A good thing he did. I lost my house.  It burned. Gravesend burned. They were trying to flush you out.”

“Trevor told me. I am sorry about your house.”

“I have made my home here and now that you are here too, I am content.”

Christine was content as long as she was with Blaine. She could live anywhere with him, even in the remote Irish cottage. It was not so with Blaine. He found the little cottage at the farm too small. There were only three of them but in four rooms he could never find a place to think, to try and make sense of his life. Trevor had offered up the farm but he wouldn’t take it. It belonged to Trevor.

A month passed and he was restless. He had no work, nothing to occupy his time. There was no garden to speak of where he might spend some time. A kitchen garden was tended by Trevor. He sat at the kitchen table and drew out elaborate garden plans. Trevor scoffed at them, deeming them suitable for a manor house or some historical property. The farm was a working place not a showplace.

“Why don’t you contact Margret?” Trevor suggested. “She’s still out there. I see a piece about her from time to time in Country Life. You know, you can’t hide forever, David. One day you’re going to have to man up and declare yourself alive.”

David mulled over calling Margret Langston. She would probably be angry with him for what he’d done. Coming home had shown him what a devastating thing his death had been to his family. They loved him and so they had forgiven him. He still thought he’d done what had to be done at the time. One relationship he had not mended was with Billy. Billy knew he was at the farm but had not called or come to see him. Neither had Blaine reached out to him.

But nature in her unbound wisdom was about to bring David Blaine to the surface again and forever banish Davey Reardon into the mists of Ireland.

 

One morning Blaine returned from taking Lyssa to school to find an emergency vehicle parked up by the farmhouse. He rushed to the door. “Who is it?”

Fish answered him. “Oh, it's Christine, sir. She fainted dead away.”

He pushed his way into the room where she still lay on the floor but was now conscious.

“Christine, my darling, what happened?”

“I...do not know.” Her eyes looked frightened as the oxygen mask came back over her face.

“What is wrong with her?” Blaine asked a medic.

“Her blood pressure dropped. She said she felt nauseous and dizzy and then blacked out. I think, sir, that we should take her to the hospital and have her checked out.”

“Right, then do it.” He held her hand waiting for the gurney to be brought in.

Blaine followed the ambulance to the hospital. While Christine was being examined, Trevor arrived.

“What happened to Christine, is she sick?”

“The doctor has not come to tell me anything. All I know is that she fainted.”

A nurse came to escort him back to the exam room. The young doctor removed his gloves and tossed them into a receptacle. “Mr. Reardon, she’s perfectly fine.”

“But…she fainted.”

“Natural enough in her condition. She’s about six weeks pregnant. Congratulations.” He smiled at a stricken-looking Christine and disappeared through the curtains.

Blaine blanched and leaned against the foot of her bed. Then he turned and left the area. Christine burst into tears and it was left to Trevor to soothe things over.

“Now, now, it’s a shock to both of you. Nothing to cry over, luv.”

“Oh, oh, dear no. I was always so careful…but with him gone I stopped all…now…oh, nooo.” She cried, burying her face in the bed sheet.

Blaine was at the end of the hall staring out a window at the parking lot below. He had not meant for this to happen. Crowding his mind were all the ramifications of having a baby. Trevor found him and laid a heavy hand on his shoulder.

“What the fuck are you doing out here. Your woman is crying her eyes out.”

“I am sorry. This is a…was a shock.”

“I don’t know why.  You certainly know how babies are made. Get your arse in there and make things right with her.”

Blaine nodded and went back to Christine. A nurse was helping her dress. Blaine stood just inside the bay near the bed. “My darling, it will be all right.”

She shook her head, unable to speak.

“We will marry, of course we will.”

“No, this we did not want.”

“It does not matter what we wanted. It is different now. We have made a baby and we made it out of love, Christine, out of love.”

The nurse glanced at the handsome man and thought how lucky the little French woman was to be making babies with him.

Trevor went back to the farm and informed Fish and Toomes.

Toomes clapped her hands. “Well, now, I shan’t be so quick about leaving. Ooo the thought of a new babe in my arms.”

Fish nodded. “I told yer to stay a bit longer.  Now lookit, eh?” Fish poured another cup of tea for both of them and added a slice of sponge cake to their plates. She waited until Trevor changed into his wellies and stepped out the back door. “Now then, mark me, they will be moving soon. Not enough room in that cottage and though Trevor has offered him the farm house here, he won’t have it.”

“Well, the cottage is nice enough for a weekender but to live there permanently, especially for Himself, no, it won’t do at all. Such a shame about Gravesend. So many nice things he had.”

“And the gardens, ohh, what a loss.”

While Fish and Toomes gossiped over their tea, Trevor took a bucket and a hoe out to the vegetable garden. Gardening was in his blood as much as it was in Blaine’s but for him it was vegetables…something useful, something that would feed them. He wielded the garden hoe with some force, breaking up clods of dirt and tossing weeds into the bucket. He was concerned about David and what he was going to do. An hour passed, maybe more, before he saw Blaine’s vehicle coming down the road to the farm. He passed by the house and continued on down to the cottage. Trevor wiped his face with a shirt sleeve. He was hot and sweaty and though he wanted to know what had transpired between them, he turned again to his work.

Blaine parked his vehicle and ran around to the other side to help her out.

“I am not disabled, David.”

He smiled and pulled her to him. “You are precious to me, Christine, even moreso now that you carry my child. Though we did not plan for any of this, it has come to us.” He hugged her and closed his eyes. He could long for the time he used to spend with her in France, when he would arrive and the world would go away for awhile. The world was very much with him now.  “Come, let us go inside whilst the house is empty.”

Upstairs in their bedroom, in the old turned oak bed piled with quilts and feather pillows, he lay down with her and made slow sweet love.

She held him tightly, not wanting it to end, not wanting him to withdraw from her and she, too, thought of the times they spent together in her upstairs room with the windows wide open and the shadows playing on the wall. At least now he was whole. There were no visible injuries to heal. She made a little sound in her throat when he did at last move from her.

Blaine cupped her breast and let his hand slide down to her belly.  There he flattened out his hand and let it still over his baby safely growing inside her body. “You have never been pregnant before?”

“Never. The doctor said I should not have a problem carrying a baby. Yet, I am afraid…a little.”

“You will not be alone.”

“No…there is you.” She caressed his cheek. “My David.”

Little by little the sounds of the farm began to intrude in their upstairs bower. Chickens were on the patio, surprised that no one was there to shoo them away. The sound of a tractor out in the field and Bebe barking. She’d found the chickens.

Blaine rolled over on his back. “You must eat. I did hear them say you must keep food on your stomach. I will make you scrambled eggs and toast.”

She started to get up and he stopped her. “No, you stay here and I will bring it to you.” He leaned over and kissed her belly then pulled on his jeans.

He delivered her tray to the bedside table and sat down beside her. “I am going to talk to Trevor. You will be all right for awhile?”

“I am perfectly fine, David. You are sweet to do this for me.”

He smiled and placed a hand on her head. “Rest today. There is nothing for you to do but lie here.” He found a shirt and pulled it over his head while slipping his feet into sandals. “I will be back.”

With his hands in his pockets he walked up to the farm and stuck his head in the back door. “Is Trevor about?”

Toomes was repairing one of Lyssa’s shirts. “He was in garden, Mr. Blaine.” She gave him a knowing smile that caused him to dip his head and back out the door. They all knew, of course…Trevor.

Trevor dumped the wheelbarrow and set it up against the barn. He’d removed his shirt some time ago and was hot and sweaty and filthy. He slipped out of his trousers, turned on the garden hose and held it over his head.

Blaine found him and stood silently admiring his uncle’s form before clearing his throat.

Trevor’s head swung around and then he grinned and turned off the water. “Hiya, David.”

David let him put feet in his shorts before beginning. “I need to reestablish myself. I think a trip to London to see my solicitors is a beginning.”

Trevor dried his face with his shirt then pulled it on. “Yeah, probably a good place to begin. What do you mean exactly, reestablish yourself?”

“I am not dead. I need to be able to sign legal documents using my given name.”

“Okay, what legal documents are you talking about?”

“I wish to marry Christine and I must find a home for us.”

“Seems like I remember you telling me once that you’d never marry again. I thought Mandy killed that for you.”

“She did for awhile. This is different, Uncle Trevor.”

Trevor smiled and leaned against the barn. “You’re in love.”

Blaine smiled, suddenly self-conscious. “I am in love with Christine. Yes, I do admit it. I want to make things right with her and our child. I cannot  continue to hide in the country under an assumed name. I would not want to marry under this lie I have made of my life.”

“You do realize what exposure could mean for you? The original threat may be gone, David, but there are always splinter groups…you know that.”

“Well, what choice do I have? Besides, I am no longer in the business of spying and assassination. I will go back to what I love.”

“Planting flowers,” Trevor grinned and straightened up. “Nothing wrong with that. You’re good at it, David.”

“And another thing, I must find a suitable house for us. We cannot continue in the cottage.”

“When are you going down to the smoke?”

“Tomorrow. I will make some phone calls today.”

“Want me to go along?”

“I would rather that you stay here and keep an eye on Lyssa and Christine.”

“Consider it done.” Trevor walked back towards the house with him. “Will you see Billy in London?”

Blaine stopped and looked at the sky for a moment. “Yes, I will try to see him.”

 

Blaine stood outside the door for a moment before pushing the bell. He could hear beyond the door, Billy’s voice and a TV.

Billy left his son in front of the TV with instructions not to push the buttons on the remote or he’d lose his video. He turned back and took the remote, knowing what would happen once he answered the door. Placing it on a shelf, he wiped his hands on his pajama pants and opened the door. His eyes registered shock and he stood quite still. “Blaine.”

“Hello, Billy.”

“My God! I never thought to see you again.”

“You knew I was back.”

“I did and I see you finally remembered where I live.”

Blaine dipped his head in acknowledgement of the sting.

Billy took him in, noting the off the rack clothes and the absence of rings. There were a few more lines in his face. Absent also was the intoxicating scent he used to wear.

“Perhaps I should not have come,” Blaine said and took a step back.

Billy reached out a hand and placed it on Blaine’s chest. His fingers closed on the front of his shirt. “Come in.”

Blaine placed his hand over Billy’s. It was all there in Billy’s eyes. He entered the flat and noticed the boy on the floor. “Willy? My but he has grown. He is three now?”

“Four on his birthday which will come up in a few weeks.” He could hardly believe Blaine was in his flat. Blaine. “I’ll, um, put the kettle on, shall I?”

Blaine smiled, always Billy’s answer to a crisis. Was there a crises? “Yes, do.” Blaine sat down on a low stool to get a better look at Willy. He was no longer his son.  He belonged to Billy, taking Billy’s last name. “Do you remember me, Willy?”

“No, sir, who are you?”

“I am your Uncle Blaine. I have been away for awhile.”

“Good you came back.”

“Yes, yes, it is good.”

Billy looked at his back, his wavy hair curling around his collar. He was dressed in a simple navy blue blazer and matching polo shirt, gray slacks and black slip-ons. Casual but good quality. He always knew how to dress. The kettle began to sing and he made a pot of tea instead of the usual bag in cup that he drank. He was different in some way that he couldn’t name yet. He walked without a cane.

“What happened to your cane?”

“I lost it a long time ago.” Blaine sat down at Billy’s table. “I am strong now, stronger than I have ever been, but I must find a way to keep this strength. I have been doing nothing for a month. Have you talked with Trevor since I returned?”

“No, I haven’t been out there or talked with anyone from the farm since Lyssa’s birthday. I was there when she opened her card. I knew then that you were alive somewhere in Ireland.”

“I faked my death as you now know. I did it to put an end to the terror that we lived.”

“A note or a phone call would have helped, Blaine. We had to suffer your death.”

“I know and for this I am sorry. I am sorry for the pain you felt.”

“Not just me.”

“Will you forgive me?”

“Sure…yeah, sure, I forgive you. I’d rather have you alive than dead. What made you decide to come back?”

“Christine.”

“Mmmh.”

“Trevor found me and then Christine came for a week. I knew I had to come home.”

“What happened to your hands?” Billy took one in his and examined his palm and his nails. He’d lost a nail and it was growing back.

“I have been making a living by working on fishing boats.”

“You! Bloody hell, Blaine.”

Blaine smiled. “Yes, me. For the past year from Greece to Ireland.”

“A story you must tell me sometime.”

“I will…sometime. I, um, did not know if you would be home today. Do you still work for the emergency services?”

“No, I took one too many holidays. I’m working part-time at a clinic. Three days a week. Something to do, pays the bills.”

“You should have no bills.”

“The money, ah, well, it’s in the bank. It’s been drawing interest and I collect that. I thought…for Willy, you know…it’d be for him. I’m okay.”

“Are you?”

“I was until you rang my bell. I’d gotten past the grief…didn’t visit it as often as I used to. Trying to...to move on as you do. Now…I don’t know. It’s like I’ve been ripped open again.” He swallowed and blinked a few times, trying not to become emotional.

Blaine took his hand in his and brought it to his lips. “I do not want to cause you pain, no more, Billy. Should I go?”

“No, I mean…no, don’t go.”

“You know, Billy, that I will always love you. No matter what comes or goes, there is that love that we share…at least I hope we still do.”

“I gave you my heart a long time ago and I don’t remember asking for it back.”

Blaine took a breath. “I must tell you something. I am going to marry Christine. She carries my baby.”

“I’m not surprised…really, I’m not. If I was a betting man, I would have placed odds on that happening when I first met her. She’s a great girl, woman, I should say. She loves you like Mandy never did. You know, she’s dead.”

“Yes, I knew that. This does not change my feelings for you. You are a part of me, Billy.”

“It must be difficult for you. I never really thought about it before. Some men take mistresses, you’ve got me.”

Blaine frowned and looked toward Willy for a moment. “I am torn, yes. It is who and what I am, I cannot change and do not wish to change. Christine knows all there is to know of me. I am not promiscuous.”

Billy let that pass. “How long will you be in London?”

“Until Wednesday. I have meetings with my solicitors and a banker. I have to reestablish myself as alive. I am driving a car Uncle Trevor bought for me. I can sign nothing as David Blaine.”

“Who were you when you weren’t David Blaine?”

“Davey Reardon, but he was left in Ireland. He lived in a little cottage he bought in Kerry and he worked on a fishing boat. He lived very simply, saved his money for things he needed. He lived as David Blaine had never lived but he had a few things to teach Blaine and I have learned from him. For once, Billy, I did not retreat into myself but lived outwardly, taking each day and making the most of it. When it came to Lyssa’s birthday, Davey Reardon began to come apart. The full enormity of what he had lost came upon him. He found himself in a card shop looking at birthday cards. So he thought he might bring her and Christine to Ireland to be with him. However, Uncle Trevor showed him the error of his ways. Uncle found me. He was always good at that…tracking people down.”

“You’re different. Where’s the scent, the tailored clothes, the bling?”

Blaine smiled and sat back in his chair.  “Such things were not available to Davey Reardon and I find I can live without them.  A part of my life is gone, Billy. I’ve let it go…finally.”

“Ali.”

“Yes, most especially…Ali.”

“What about Sir Brennan and that ilk?”

“I have no plans to reintroduce myself into that world. I will contact Margret Langston, if she will talk with me.”

“She was really upset at the memorial service. I haven’t seen her since. There was a bloke who hung around for awhile after…you, um…I had the feeling he didn’t believe you’d died.”

“Who, what bloke?”

“His name is Matt Shane.  You met him, I believe.”

“Shane.” Blaine shook his head. “I do not recall him.”

“He was the one who got you out of the country.”

“Ah, yes. I do not know him, Billy.”

“He works for Cramer and them. He’s American.”

“I do not plan to present myself to them or to Brennan’s outfit. I am done with that.”

“I thought you ought to know about him. When I say he hung around, he did hang. I spied him several times around the neighborhood and he doesn't live here, Blaine. I had the feeling he was watching me.”

“Does he still come around?”

“Not that I’ve noticed in the past four or five months. I don’t really look for him. I got drunk with him one night right after you disappeared. He planned it out. He was fishing for information. Information I didn’t have, like where you were. He knows about us.”

Blaine drummed his fingers on the table for a minute. “He will find me if it is important for him to do so. That is the way of it. I have nothing for him. It is the chance I must take to get my identity back. My passport, my driver’s license, these are things I must have. My child will carry my name…Blaine, so it must be so.”

“Any plans for this evening?”

“None.  My appointment is in the morning at ten with my solicitors. And another at three with my bankers.  I could drive back tomorrow night or I could stay.”

“Where are you staying?”

Blaine reached in his pocket and brought out the sleeve for his room key and slid it across the table. “I am there, room 304. If you have a pen I will give you my new phone number.”

Billy picked up the card holder and looked up, meeting Blaine’s blue gaze. “I’ll find a babysitter.”

 

z

Chapter 2

Blaine walked out of the Savoy and waited for his taxi. Billy had come and stayed with him until midnight. He’d been so afraid Billy would be angry enough with him that he would have turned him away. He had a right to be but Billy was made of different stuff.  He approached the doorman.

“Is that not my cab?”

The doorman lifted his head tilting it to one side. “Well, sir, I am not familiar with that vehicle. Ah, here comes your ride,” he smiled and stepped forward to open the door. Blaine settled in and gave the driver the address of his solicitor’s office.

Malcolm Forrest moved around behind his desk and adjusted his glasses. “You’re quite sure, are you?”

Matt Shane tugged at his tie. “As sure as I am about anything. I saw him with my own eyes less than an hour ago.”

“You’ve been keeping an unauthorized surveillance on Billy Wright for how long?”

“Uh, I don’t know exactly. Off and on for a year or so. It’s not like I sit out there in stake out mode. We just happened by there yesterday evening and saw him leaving. We followed him to the Savoy. Billy Wright doesn’t usually go to the Savoy so we were interested. He stayed until midnight and left by cab. He left alone.  We set up nearby this morning and from time to time we circled in the drive. Taxi cabs do that all the time. Then…jackpot, out walks Blaine, plain as day.”

 “Hmm.” Malcolm played with a pen on his desk. “Do you think he would recognize you, Shane?”

“I don’t think so. He was so shaken the night I took him to the coast he wasn’t registering anything. It was dark in the car.”

“Any idea where he went today?”

“None.  We didn’t follow but he left without luggage.”

“All right, watch him.”

“Should I engage him?”

“Whatever you think is best, Shane, but be careful…he’s no fool.”

Shane was delighted. His gut feeling about Blaine turned out to be right on the money. He knew about disappearing from his own past experiences. But Blaine had come back, something he never did. Shane never revisited his past.

Malcolm still toyed with his pen after Shane left. He supposed he should tell Robert Cramer and if he did it was a sure bet he’d contact Sir Brennan. Or…or he could keep it under his hat for awhile and see what transpired. There had to be a reason for Blaine to reappear after a year’s absence, after his reported death.

 

With some time to spare after a pub lunch, Blaine shopped along Oxford Street. On a whim, he bought a cane, a nice ebony stick with a silver handle. It was made for walking and not for show. He’d done right in coming in person to visit with his solicitors. Nothing like a face to face meeting when you’re trying to convince someone you’re alive. He still had the bank to confront but one of the solicitors would be meeting him there to smooth things over. The cane was a good purchase. Not often did he suffer pain anymore but walking seemed to awaken those damaged nerves in his lower back.  He’d had enough of it and stepped to the curb looking for a cab.

“Where to, sir?” the young man behind the wheel asked.

Blaine gave him the name of his bank. He paid the driver and found a nearby coffee shop to wait.

“It’s me. I got him. Picked him up on Oxford and delivered him to the Square Mile, Leadenhall. What do you want me to do?”

“Banks? Er, well, park somewhere if you can. Don’t pick him up again today.”

“No, I won’t. I’ll tail him.”

“Good work, Bates,” Shane said. “See ya at the regular for a pint.”

Bates drove a London Cab, though it wasn’t an official cab. There were slight differences that a street person may or may not notice. It belonged to MI-5 as did Bates and his partner, Matt Shane. It was good cover and he was able to ride around without attracting notice. It surprised him that Blaine slid into the back seat. That man should have noticed and he didn’t. He didn’t notice the stripes over the roof of the black vehicle.

 

Blaine’s keen eyes surveyed the street from the small table by the window. There it was again slowly moving by and then disappeared. He took out a small leather notebook and wrote down his thoughts, finished his coffee and left for the bank.

He took another cab back to his hotel and while in route he asked the driver.

“What sort of cab has green and white stripes on the roof?”

“I couldn’t say, sir. Might be an independent, ‘e’s not one of the London Cab Company’s.”

“Right, thank you.” He might not have noticed had the doorman at the Savoy acknowledged it, then, to see it again on Oxford Street. He noticed nothing untoward inside the cab and the driver had been courteous and knowledgeable about the routes. It was just that he had an uneasy feeling about it. He’d been away for so long he was in danger of letting down his guard. For a year he hadn’t had to think about being followed or that the next man he faced might wish him harm.

Billy was working today and they planned to meet for dinner with Willy in tow.

“I think I am being followed, Billy.”

Billy set his pint glass down and pushed the chips over to Willy. “Didn’t take them long, did it?”

“Who, who would be interested in me?”

“A number of people, I would think. Especially since you’ve come back from the dead.”

“Sir Brennan…but if it was him, he would not hesitate to send a car for me.”

“Did you see anyone?”

“I do not know if I did or not. A strange cab appeared twice today. Stripes on top.”

“I’ve seen that cab around town. I figured it was one of those independent fellows trying to make a buck. They use all kinds of vehicles, vans and SUV’s.”


“This was like a London cab but with stripes. I could see nothing different inside, nothing that did not belong there.” He shrugged. “Perhaps I am being paranoid.” Blaine reached over and broke the fish apart for Willy, who ate with his fingers. “Perhaps it is London that makes me nervous. There was not a logo, no company name on the side or top,” he added.

“Be careful, Blaine. You ought to have a bleeding body guard.”

“Beeding, beeding,” Willy said with a big grin and a mouthful of fish.

Blaine walked with them back to the street where Billy lived. “Want to come up for awhile? You can give Willy a bath and put him to bed.”

Blaine smiled. “No, I will leave that to you, Dad.” He embraced them both and kissed them both. “I will go back to the Savoy, call home. Come out and see us soon, will you?”

“When I get the time, I will. It was good to see you.”

“Yes.” Blaine touched his face and then put his hands in his pockets. “Will you call me a cab, please?”

“You’re a cab,” Billy laughed and pulled out his phone, handed Willy to Blaine and made the call. He stayed with him until the cab arrived, one without stripes.

Blaine made his call to Christine and told her he would be returning the next day. He’d accomplished what he came to do. “I may try and see Margret Langston, if she is at home. I will let you know if I take the side trip. All is well at home?”

“All is well, no more fainting spells. Now that I know what is the cause I can prevent it. Fish and Toomes are looking after me. Lyssa is with them tonight. She wanted to sleep up there so I said yes. She does from time to time.”

“Tell her I will see her tomorrow.”

“I will, I love you…take care of you, David.”

“I love you, Christine, and I will take care.”

It was still early, too early to think about going to bed. Blaine didn’t watch TV. He wandered down to the hotel bar and ordered a drink. A few seats down the bartender returned to a conversation with a man about football. The man was an American and there was something about his voice that rang a bell. He turned and looked at him.

Sensing Blaine’s interest, he glanced over. “What do you think about American football?  Think those guys are wimpy, all 300 plus pounds of them?”

“I do not follow football,” Blaine replied.

“I thought all Brits were crazy for what you call football.”

“Not this one,” Blaine said and finished his drink in two swallows. He took his cane and headed for the outside door. It led out in the courtyard where the main entrance was located. Instead of going back inside the hotel he stepped into the shadows and waited.

Shane paid up and went outside, stopping to light a cigarette then he looked over the courtyard. He felt something in the middle of his back and tensed up.

“Don’t move,” Blaine said. “Who are you?”

“Hey, better watch that cane.  It might backfire.”

Blaine blinked and for a second the cane in Berlin flashed before his eyes, the one that had backfired and nearly disabled his left hand. He grabbed Shane by the arm. “You will talk to me.”

“What makes you think I got anything to discuss with you? You don’t even follow football.”

“I know you.”

“I don’t think so, buddy.”

“I know your voice. I know it from the back seat of a cab in Birmingham, from Birmingham to Brighton, so do not lie to me.”

Shane put up his hands. “Games up. You want to talk, so do I.”

Blaine looked around. “Come with me.” He led him through the front entrance and in the great lobby he found a private corner.

Shane looked at him closely. “You don’t look too bad for a dead man.”

“Quiet. Why are you following me?”

“I never really bought it, you know, the suicide.”

“Why were you in Birmingham?”

“Let’s say I work for some people that you are acquainted with. Believe it or not, I think I might have saved your life that night.”

“You…it was you?”

“You wanna hate me for it? You would have let that punk shoot you and if he didn’t his girl would have. You got some kind of death wish, Blaine? By the way, I’m Matt Shane.”

Blaine placed the heels of his hands in his eyes for a moment. “No, I have been dead and I do not recommend it. Why did you kill him? You could have wounded him.”

“I could have and then he’d have gotten the shot off or his lady friend would have. You don’t fuck around with terrorists. He was going to take your life, probably for taking his father’s life.”

“I thought I could help him.”

“Yeah, well…”

“So, why are you following me?”

“It was an accident, actually. But…the truth is, we want to know why you’re back. Did something in particular bring you back? And, where the hell have you been?”

“None of that is your concern or anybody else’s. My life is private.”

“You’re not working then?”

“No.”

“Staying in the city or…?”

“It does not matter where I stay.”

“It matters to some people.”

“You can tell those ‘some people’ that they can go fuck themselves. Leave me alone.” Blaine’s eyes flashed. Shane chuckled.

“I could like you, Blaine. That, um, death you staged was brilliant."

Blaine stared at him, saying nothing.

“I’ve done a bit of disappearing in my lifetime but nothing that matches what you did. Just so you know, and you probably don’t give a damn, I’m working for MI-5. I didn’t have a choice in the matter. It was go to work or go to jail. I do my job and collect my pay. Sometimes, you know, you get in a position where they gotta kill you or hire you. Did you ever see that old movie, The Spy That Came in From the Cold?”

“What are you saying?”

“It doesn’t apply to you as far as I know. I was speaking about myself.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“I’m on your side, Blaine.”

Blaine chuckled mirthlessly. “I have used that line myself. It is part of the, what do you call it in football?” Blaine snapped his fingers.

“Playbook,” Shane smiled. “See, you do know something about football.”

Blaine rested his hands on the silver handle of his cane. “For my life, I thank you.” He looked up and met Shane’s eyes. “There is no reason for us to meet again. There is no reason for you to follow me or harass me or my family. I am back but the reasons for my return have nothing to do with your company or anyone else’s. I wish to be left alone.”

Shane dipped his head. “Fair enough. I’ll leave you then before you get trigger happy with that cane.” That brought a smile to Blaine’s face.

“I do not do shooters anymore. They explode.”

Shane tilted his head. “Do they? Take care, Blaine.” He rose and Blaine also stood up. “I’d like to buy you a drink sometime.”

Blaine narrowed his eyes. “I cannot think why.” He watched him leave and then went up to his room. The man had saved his life in Birmingham but he didn’t trust him. What interest could MI-5 possibly have in him? Was Cramer behind this and for what purpose? He paced around his room then stopped suddenly. Was Shane trying to warn him?

The next morning he was up early and called for his car to be brought around. While standing on the pavement waiting in front of the hotel he scanned the area, looking for Shane or anyone else that might look like an agent. He missed the young man on a bicycle adjusting his helmet. He pedaled away when Blaine opened his car door and placed his bag on the back seat. Once he was out of sight he stopped and wrote down the numbers he’d been repeating to himself. A block away a black cab with stripes on the roof was parked on the street. He stopped and secured the bike on the bike rack and removed his helmet.

“Ready, I’ve got the tag number…”

Blaine fought traffic until he was out of the city. Putting miles between himself and London had become urgent. He decided to skip the side trip and go straight home to the farm. The cottage was empty and so he walked up to the farmhouse. Toomes was readying herself to pick up Lyssa from school.

“There you are, sir. They’ve all gone to market and should be back, oh, in a half hour or so.”

“Uncle Trevor?”

“He’s somewhere,” she shrugged her shoulders, “on the farm.”

Blaine walked out in the yard and listened for any sign of his uncle. Finding none, he went back to the cottage and brought in his bag and unpacked. He made coffee and sat down on the patio.

“Hello the house!” Trevor called.

“Out here on the patio.”

“So, how did it go?  Are you officially alive now?”

“Yes, it went well. There will be some papers arriving that you must sign.”

“Not a problem.” Trevor pulled out a chair. “Did you see Billy?”

“Billy and I are fine, Trevor. We spent some time together.”

“Good, I think he needed that and you did too.”

“Yes. I may have a problem.”

“What kind of problem?”

“MI-5 is on my tail.”

 

ON TO CHAPTER 3

 

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